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Advocates Push Regulators to Stop AT&T's Plan to Drop Ohio Lifeline Program

photo of Bianca Edwards
KAREN KASLER
/
STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU
Bianca Edwards with the Ohio Organizing Collaborative says the program is too important to low-income Ohioans.

Groups representing low-income people are calling on state regulators to reject AT&T’s plan to drop out of a federal program that helps over 10,000 of its Ohio customers afford telephone service.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Ohio Poverty Law Center and the Alliance for Retired Americans are among those defending the Lifeline program, which offers a credit that covers a quarter of the $36 average monthly cost of a landline telephone.

Bianca Edwards is with the Ohio Organizing Collaborative in Cincinnati.

“For those that can’t afford phone and internet services, this is the lifeline that keeps them not only connected to their communities and loved ones but also to safety,” Edwards said.

AT&T says increased competition has reduced its Lifeline subscribers, and it’s received permission to drop out of the program in 10 other states. If the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approves its dropout request, customers would have to find another provider who offers the Lifeline program.   

PUCO is accepting public comments until the end of the month at www.puco.ohio.gov/media-room/media-releases/puco-seeks-comment-on-at-t-ohio-application-to-end-discount-program/

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.